Van Halen

Van Halen

Warner Brothers Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/11/2004

(Editor's Note: A slightly different version of this review first appeared in the November 12, 1996 edition of On The Town magazine.)

Kick back for a second and let the music hit you... the pulsating bass, the pounding drums, the playful tinkle on the ivories, the wild-animal cries from the leather-pantsed, sweaty-maned singer, and-and-what the hell is that thing that sounds like a cross between an electric guitar and a howitzer?

Welcome to Circus Van Halen, where never-before-heard feats of electric guitar derring-do are summoned up with deliberate, repeated, stunning ease. Feast on the chiming chord shifts and monstrously fat chorus riffs of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"; let your eardrums savor the band's driving, thrashing, ecstatic take on the Kinks' classic "You Really Got Me"; step back in awe at the sheer savagery with which the band attacks the opener "Runnin' With The Devil"; cackle with glee at the sassy lyric and effortless virtuosity of "I'm The One," or the lounge-y Vegas start and blistering hard rock finish of "Ice Cream Man."nbtc__dv_250

Trace the impossibly cool flying VH symbol into a homemade poster (for this part it helps a lot to be 15 years old and male). Marvel at the pioneering, fretboard-hammering, string-bending, tone-melding style that has made Eddie Van Halen one of the most-imitated guitar heroes in rock and roll history. Finally, stand back in wonder and absorb the awesomeness that is Eddie's "Eruption"-a simple two-minute solo statement on the guitar, straight out of the gate: here's my best, I dare you to top it. It's been 26 years, and no one has-not even Eddie.

Of course, time has taken a toll on the band. Heavy metal is, after all, typically a young man's sport, even allowing for the mainstream pop-metal leanings Van Halen has opted for ever since the band's second album (previewed here on "Jamie's Cryin'"). And the ghost of old Leatherpants David Lee Roth-one of the biggest buffoons in rock history-still swirls around almost two decades after his first tenure as the group's frontman ended and six years after the brief, abortive reunion the original lineup attempted. Eddie and company are carrying on now, of course, reuniting with VH mark II singer Sammy Hagar, he of the shaggy mane and cliched lyrics.

But as this once-great band continues its slow fade into history, let's stop and appreciate for just a moment this smashingly original, powerhouse debut and the way it forever reshaped the landscape of hard rock-not to mention the repertoire of an entire nation of air-guitar players.

Rating: A

User Rating: B+


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© 2004 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.